This is the second of a four-part essay series hosted here on the YAL blog which will address the alliances between the US government and sponsors of international terrorism. Read Part 1 here, and stay tuned for the next two parts, which will publish daily this week.
The Saudis’ walk alone?
The connection between the Saudi government and terrorist organizations was a rule was not discussed during the preparations for war with Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, or Afghanistan. Indeed, if the same scrutiny had been given to the real information about Saudi connections to terror networks as was given to the false information used as a pretext for war with Iraq, then history may have played out quite differently.
Instead, the United States has over the past 20 years brokered record defense and armament deals with the House of Saud. In 2010, for example, a record $60 billion arms deal was brokered between the Obama Administration and the Saudi Arabia. Then, in 2013, when the United States did not follow through with war against the Assad regime, the House of Saud unilaterally and openly supported the Syrian rebels, the Free Syrian Army, who until recently were allied with ISIL (previously known as ISIS), the radical group disavowed by even al-Qaeda which is now sweeping through Iraq.
It should also be noted that based on reports from hostages and reporters on the ground, the distinction between members of the Free Syrian Army and International jihadist forces are exceedingly unclear. Some have even gone so far as to infer that the Free Syrian Army, supported by US ally Saudi Arabia, is nothing more than a front group for outright terrorist organizations.
Is it too much of a stretch to say that, through the Saudi arms deal and similar support, the US government/NATO have essentially funded terrorism while providing themselves with plausible deniability? Senator Rand Paul has made precisely this charge:
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Sunday that the Sunni militants taking over Iraq have quickly gained power because the United States armed their allies in Syria.
“I think we have to understand first how we got here,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think one of the reasons why ISIS has been emboldened is because we have been arming their allies. We have been allied with ISIS in Syria.”
Yet the duplicitous nature of these deals don’t stop here—learning from experience is not Washington’s style. The State Department has brokered a $500 million deal to fund what’s left of the “moderate” Syrian rebel forces.
The question which burns in my mind is this. How can the American public sit idly by and watch news reports which consistently omit or perhaps refuse to discuss these obvious connections at length?
Many of the journalists who report news have followed the War on Terror since 2001. By now they should be experts on the events which have transpired since 9/11. Their profession is to know the facts. Yet look at this transcript from Face the Nation this June, in which President Obama discusses what the policy of the United States should be to counter the ISIL insurgency in Iraq.
OBAMA: This is going to be a global challenge and one that the United States is going to have to address, but we’re not going to be able to address it alone. And as I said yesterday, what we can’t do is think that we’re just going to play Whac-A-Mole and send U.S. troops occupying various countries wherever these organizations pop up.
O’DONNELL: Would that vacuum exist had we backed the moderate rebel forces in Syria?
After the President posits such a grand narrative of conditions on the ground in Syria and Iraq, Ms. O’Donnell can only re-enforce this narrative with a throwaway question which doesn’t challenge his statement at all? Those who follow the Syrian Civil War know these rebels were at best duplicitous, and at worst open terrorists. (I think this notion that somehow there was this ready-made moderate Syrian force that was able to defeat Assad is simply not true. The notion that they were in a position suddenly to overturn not only Assad, but also ruthless, highly trained jihadists if we just sent few arms is a fantasy.)
When Ms. O’Donnell allows the President or any other guest on her program to present a narrative and gloss over definitive conflicts of interest, sharp ironies, and absurd policy outcomes one may question who the editors, staff, and producers had in mind when they prepared such an interview for consumption. This is not journalism so much as it is public relations.
CBS News is by no means alone. There are countless examples of media laziness in the face of the establishment narrative. The question which should be asked, however, is simple: Will the US government hold its longstanding allies like Saudi Arabia and Qatar (which has also been linked to terrorism) to account for their questionable connections to various terrorist organizations? Or, better yet, will we break these entangling alliances?
Secretary of State John Kerry touched on such issues his recent Middle East trip:
Cairo is Secretary Kerry’s first stop on weeklong diplomatic push to try to stabilize Iraq… Kerry is expected to… pitch to other Arab leaders from Saudi Arabia and emirates this week, and U.S. officials tell me Kerry will lean on them to help cut off funding to [ISIL]. They say private donations from the Gulf, along with extortion and robbery is how [ISIL] remains so well-funded.
The apparent follow-up on these good intentions is nonexistent—as, it seems, is the curiosity about this foreign policy of shooting ourselves in the foot. The highest ranking diplomat, who with his predecessors routinely gives lethal and financial aid to these Middle Eastern governments and supposedly moderate rebel groups, has openly admitted that through the allies our government funds terrorism by proxy!
This should be the lead in every news bulletin globally. It should be thoroughly investigated, questioned, discussed, harangued, and put in 24-hour rotation. Every cable news network should have side stories, sub-plots, and panel discussions which cover every conceivable angle to this story. And yet—near silence.
Part 3 of this series will be published tomorrow.
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